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Bush Back In Washington

On his first day back in Washington after a 26-day Texas vacation, President Bush plans a round of strategy sessions with aides to plan for a busy fall. The agenda includes big increases in defense and education spending, protections for HMO patients, and Medicare coverage for prescription drugs, as well the expected tussle with Congress over where the money's going to come from.

This year's fight with Congress over the 13 annual spending bills due by October promises to be especially bloody.

Democrats, pointing to the new surplus projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, say Mr. Bush can't pay for his agenda without breaking one of his most central campaign promises: to not use Social Security reserves to cover general budget shortfalls.

Budget Projections
Click here to read the Congressional Budget Office's new budget outlook (.pdf format).

Click here to read the White House Office of Management and Budget's revised figures (.pdf format).

In a preview of the rough ride Democrats planned to give him, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton bemoaned to her constituents Wednesday "the hole that this tax cut has dug for us." Congressional Democratic leaders demanded to meet with the president and have him explain how he plans to pay for everything without touching Social Security.

Mr. Bush's answers so far have been to circle the wagons around the tax cut, declaring it the "right prescription" for the ailing economy and to warn Congress against going "hog-wild" when it debates the 13 spending bills that must be passed to keep the federal government running.

"I return to Washington ... ready to make my case and ready to work with folks on both sides of the aisle," he said Wednesday. At the same time, he signaled he would be no pushover, saying: "We didn't come to rubber stamp the status quo."

On the international front, one of the first items of business on the president's agenda is a state visit from Mexico's President Vicente Fox next week. In September, Mr. Bush will go to the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and the following month to China.


Click here for a closer look at the Bush presidency.
Click here for a look at the 107th U.S. Congress.

During Mr. Bush's month-long vacation, Middle East violence skyrocketed, but he has stuck to his position that Israelis and Palestinians must resolve to stop it, with extra emphasis on the Palestinians.

Mr. Bush spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from Crawford and he restated to reporters the U.S. stance that the best framework for progress was former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell's report calling for a truce, a cooling-off period and confidence-building measures leading to peace talks.

In November, Russin President Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Mr. Bush's "Prairie Chapel" ranch where they will try to resolve differences over a missile defense shield and the U.S. desire to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty banning such systems.

Also high on Mr. Bush's list this autumn is convincing Congress to give him broad new trade negotiating authority. Democrats insist on conditions for labor and the environment.

After spending Thursday and Friday nights at the White House, the president and first lady Laura Bush planned to go to Camp David, the retreat in the Maryland mountains, for the weekend. On Monday, Labor Day, Mr. Bush travels to Michigan and Wisconsin.

©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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